Eyre Massey, 1st Baron Clarina (1719-1804), the sixth son of Colonel Hugh Massey of Duntrileague, Co. Limerick, had a distinguished military career, which spanned more than six decades. Most notably, he fought in the Americas during the colonial wars against France and Spain, and was stationed in Canada during the American War of Independence.
Massey joined Blakeney's Regiment of Foot (later the 27th or Enniskilling Regiment) in 1739 and went with them to the West Indies, where he soon attained the Lieutenancy of the grenadiers. He was at Admiral Vernon's capture of the port of Portobello, Panama, that year. He later served with his Regiment against the Jacobites in Scotland and was wounded at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. He was promoted to Major in 1755, shortly before being sent to serve against the French in North America. Major Massey arrived in New York in 1756 and in July 1758 was made Lieutenant-Colonel of the 46th Regiment of Foot. In 1759, he successfully commanded the Regiment in the expedition against the French Fort Niagara, succeeding to the command of the King's army on the death of Brigadier-General John Prideaux in July that year (although he chose to waive his command in favour of General Sir William Johnson). This victory left the whole Upper Ohio region in British hands. In 1760, he assigned to commanded the grenadiers in a hazardous advance on Montreal, and in 1761, after more than two years commanding the 46th Foot, he returned to the 27th, as Lieutenant-Colonel. Later that year he was active in the capture of Martinique, and in the conquest of Havana, Cuba, in 1762, before returning to New York in 1763, following the conclusion of the Seven Years' War. Massey was based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, an important harbour town and naval base, following the rebellion of 1775. He was promoted to Major-General in 1777 and, following his return to Ireland the year after to command the Garrison of Cork, was made Lieutenant-General. He was made a full General in 1796. Alongside a military career Massey was Member of Parliament for Swords, Co. Dublin (1790-7), Governor of Limerick (1797-1804) and Governor of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. He was raised to the peerage as Baron Clarina of Elm Park in 1800. He had married Catherine (d. 1815), the daughter of Nathaniel Clements and sister of Robert Clements, 1st Earl of Leitrim. We are grateful to Brian Leigh Dunnigan for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.
We are grateful to Colonel Peter Walton for suggesting that Massey is shown here as Colonel of the 27th in about 1773. Interestingly, it would appear that the artist has painted a small model hat and then superimposed a larger one. The smaller style was possibly more fashionable, however military dress by this time was beginning to separate itself from civilian fashion.